Columns

A gift to the world from Barack and Harry

...and, Meghan's not the 1st

Lance Neita

Sunday, March 18, 2018



In a recent article on the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I stated that Meghan was first married in 2013 in Jamaica, at the Jamaica Inn Hotel. I have since been corrected by letter from an obviously well-connected person who points out that Meghan married in Jamaica (at Jamaica Inn Hotel) in 2011 and divorced in 2013. I stand corrected. Incidentally, the very graciously message goes on to say, “I hope the wedding day is also celebrated in Jamaica too. Have a lovely day.”

The article, 'A grand wedding in the making', also attracted comments from another reader who differed with my observation that Meghan is the first woman of African descent who will marry into the British royal family.

“I respectfully beg to differ,” he says, in fact “Queen Sophie, Queen Victoria's great grandmother, was an African woman from the German royal family.”

Well, wow, that certainly made me run to the history books. And I am grateful for the reader's comments and correction.

Turns out that Charlotte Sophie was, by marriage to King George III, the Queen of Great Britain from 1761 to her death in 1818. Some historians claim that The Queen, though German, was directly descended form a black branch of the Portuguese royal family. But, so many years ago, surely it's wishful thinking and much conjecturing to claim or to make colour and racial lines an issue with the present royal family.

One chap writes that if the Portuguese connection was indeed black, then Queen Victoria and the entire royal family down to Prince Harry would also be black or, rather, have good old black blood running through their veins.

One historian asks, would our royal family be threatened if it were shown that they had African forebears? Certainly not. “There would be no feelings attached to it all,” says another historian Hugo Vickers. “The theory does not impress me, but even if it were true, the whole thing would have been so long gone and couldn't matter less to the family.”

All these arguments, of course, are being raised again with the coming of the grand wedding on May 19.

For example, did Queen Sophie Charlotte really have African forebears? That still has to be proven conclusively. And if so, does that mean we call her black? This colour confusion and complex thing has been around for longer than you think. It didn't seem to matter much in biblical times. The man who carried the cross for Jesus Christ was chosen not because he was black, but because he was strong. After all, “A so wi tallawah.”

Hark back to the USA, however, when for many decades there was what they called the 'one drop rule', whereby if you had any percentage of black in you, you could not be regarded as really white. Same applied to Jamaica in years not too long gone by. But with black blood spreading all over the place, and all over the centuries, was President Barack Obama really the first black president of the United States? Open up the cabinets and check the files, many of your presidents, Donald Trump, were black, according to the one drop rule.

In Meghan's case, one thing is certain, there is nothing to probe and discover. She is one confident person who is proud of her mixed ancestry. Meghan is an American actress and a humanitarian and describes herself in the most positive terms.

“My father is Caucasian and my mom is African-American. I am half white and half black, and embrace where I am from. I voice my pride in being a strong, confident and mixed-race woman.”

As a humanitarian she has served on several charities as an international ambassador, and is a speaker on gender equality and modern-day slavery. She travelled to India to raise awareness of issues concerning women, and worked with the United Nations entity for gender equality and empowerment of women. And she is an example to other countries where class divisions are so pronounced and disguised and are still being forced on society.

Prince Harry himself has no qualms about putting down any rude questions or raised eyebrows regarding his upcoming marriage. Harry hobnobs with people of all races so comfortably that when looking at the pictures you would swear he is 'one of us'. He moves as easily with our Usain Bolt as he does with Barack Obama.

His grandfather, Prince Phillip, has always behaved in like manner, both having that natural panache to appeal immediately to persons of all races, class and mannerisms. Prince Phillip had a reputation in Jamaica of slipping away from the protocol line while on royal visits here to do something unorthodox and out of the range of his staff.

Believe it or not, I got close to offering him a Red Stripe on his visit in 2006, when I got a surprise invitation (yes, I wrangled it) to the reception at King's House. My wife and myself wondered away from the handshaking line (yes, we were 'presented') to the Portland parish pavilion which, separate from the other parish presentations, offered jerk and cold beer as their cocktail offerings.

Quite overcome by the occasion I rushed towards the cold drink drum pan, only to hear a voice behind me, “I say, can you tell me why this seems to be the most popular booth here this evening?” I turned around to see Prince Phillip, who had obviously bolted from the royal line to break the monotony. My wife, who is an expert on culinary matters, was telling him “It's the spice, Your Highness.”

And then, looking in my direction, she pointedly added, “and the jerk”. In utter confusion, I started to offer the Prince a cold one, only to see him quickly whisked away and back into the line by whomever.

But speaking of Obama. I saw a photo of Prince Harry and himself, together at the Invictus Games in Canada last year. The Invictus games is an international Paralympic-style meet created by the Prince himself, and is a multi-sport event organised for wounded and sick armed services personnel.

Apart from the beard, the two looked like brothers in a very relaxed and informal moment. In a later interview conducted with Harry, the former president-in-retirement told the prince that he looked at leadership as a sort of relay race. “I always viewed my leadership career as taking the baton from a whole range of people who have come before.”

“If you run hard enough,” he told Harry, “do your best, and can pass the baton successfully with everything a bit better off, you can be proud.”

So how did he feel passing the baton on to President Donald Trump? On his final day as president he said he didn't feel a sense of relief, as relief indicates some sense that you can't wait to get out.” Rather, he felt a surprising sense of serenity on leaving the White House, “As I thought we had run a good race.”

He didn't mention Trump, but guess what, the Republican leader is set to face a serious challenge from Democratic leadership this year for the midterm congressional elections, and you know who will be at the forefront to the Democratic race, none other than Obama.

He is expected to hit the campaign trail this year on behalf of Democrats and, with his popularity at 60 per cent compared to Trump's low polling figures, Trump should be concerned.

So far Obama's retirement life has been quite sedate, but he has some firm opinions about the future that he shared with Prince Harry during the interview.

The year 2017 was tough all over the world, but he thought: “We should be optimistic because we live in a more advanced world.”

He had telling words, not only for the USA, but for our own Jamaican situation.

“I can tell people what I genuinely believe, which is that if we take responsibility for being involved in our own fate, if we participate, if we engage, if we speak out, if we volunteer, if we see the joy that comes from services to others, then all the problems we face are solvable.”

Obama noted that the world has made giant strides in education, medicine, and that the world on a whole is healthier, wealthier, better educated, and more tolerant than just about any time in human history.

“You think about the history of the United States,” he said, “it was only a few generations ago where someone who looked like me was in bondage, or if not in any bondage, then servitude.”

Two men giving a gift to this world. One, a black man becoming president of the great United States of America. Unbelievable and unexpected in my lifetime. The other, happily taking a bride whose biracial background is warmly welcomed by the royal family, and an example of Jamaica's own motto to the snobs and bigots of this world, that we are “Out of many, one people.”

Lance Neita is a public relations consultant and writer. Send comments to the Observer or lanceneita@hotmail.com.

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